WEDNESDAY, May 7, 2008 - Richard Silvestri (RATHSKELLER DECORATIONS)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium-Easy

THEME: Baseball wordplay, I guess - non-baseball phrases clued in a wacky baseball manner. Huzzah.

Two words: ALOES (22A: Bitter drug) and SEDALIA (25D: City in central Missouri). Why anyone thought this crossing was acceptable is beyond me. ALOES is a word that should be seen maybe once a year tops, and then only because the rest of your puzzle is Fantastic and you have to make the sacrifice, and THEN only if you clue it via the Athol Fugard play "A Lesson from ALOES." And SEDALIA, if you do not live in MO, is nowhere. Barely more than 20K people huddled in the middle of nowhere, and it's somehow puzzle-worthy? VISALIA is more of a place name than SEDALIA, and I wouldn't foist VISALIA on you despite the fact that I grew up one hour from there and it would be a gimme for me. Or, I might force it on you, if I were sure that all the crosses were gettable. An obscure non-plural s-ending word crossing an obscure proper noun? Yeah, good idea. I finished this puzzle last night and had a blank at this crossing. I decided I didn't care what the answer was and went to sleep.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Musial's 6 and Gibson's 45? (Cardinal numbers) - cute. I almost like this one.
  • 27A: Pregame practice in Cincinnati? (Red pepper) - "Pepper?" I only vaguely know this "practice." Here's a definition I yanked off of "A warm-up exercise in which players standing a short distance from a batter field the ball and toss it to the batter, who hits each toss back to the fielders." This sounds like a good way to get your nose broken if you are one of the fielders.
  • 48A: AT&T Park standout? (Giant star) - would have liked a Barry Bonds clue here (even though he's no longer a Giant). Something more colorful than [Corporate name Park bland word]
  • 62A: Prospects for a New York pennant? (Met expectations) - this is horribly bland. In fact, all of these except for CARDINAL NUMBERS are pretty pathetic.

The grid shape here is also torturous (and tortuous) with that horrible intestine-like middle section completely separated from far east and far west. All in all an unpleasant, if ultimately harmless and forgettable, experience.

There have been some disappointing puzzles in the paper lately, but I want to step back for a second and make something very clear to readers who think I grouse too much. The NYT puzzle, for all its occasional faults, is really rivaled by only one other puzzle in the US: The NY Sun. If you want to see how consistently Good the NYT is, how high Will and constructors have set the bar, just try doing this widely syndicated daily puzzle - specifically the Saturday, May 3 edition (you can choose the date from a menu in the upper right corner). When you're done, you can check out my tirade in the comments section here, or (completely unrelated, uncoordinated, and coincidental) Tyler Hinman's semi-tirade here. Sometimes it's good to remember just how good Times solvers have it (puzzles like this one notwithstanding).

Today was a good day for trotting out your xword knowledge. There were at least four answers today that I would have struggled with in the not-too-distant past - and they're all super-familiar to me now, thanks to xwords:

  • IGOR (66A: Operatic prince) - put this in without blinking, with no crosses in place. Before crosswords, IGOR was only a creepy lab assistant.
  • INEZ (11D: Don Juan's mother) - also Rex Parker's grandmother, who turns 88 next week. Happy birthday, grandma. I love you. As many of you already know, my first crossword memory involves watching my grandma work a puzzle at my mom's kitchen table when I was about 12. Didn't start solving til about 8 years later, but clearly that moment made a big impression.
  • ELIAS (28D: Inventor Howe) - can't even remember what he invented, but I know his name cold. Ooh, he patented the first American-made sewing machine. Innnnnteresting.
  • STEAMERS (39D: Clambake fare) - there are no clams where I grew up. Just ... raisins. And relentless dry heat for four months out of the year - the kind that makes the metal parts of seatbelts potentially lethal weapons if your car has been parked in the sun for any length of time. But I digress.

Interesting and/or tough stuff:

  • 10A: Author O'Flaherty (Liam) - part of the Celtic Revival of the late 19c. and early 20c. The only name you know from the list of authors involved in this movement is William Butler Yeats. You wouldn't know LIAM were it not for xwords. Oh, stop, you would not. You know LIAM Neeson and maybe that guy named LIAM from Oasis (if you are British), and that's it.
  • 36A: Beach washer (tide) - what a weird clue ... I like it. You can't really "wash" the beach, can you? It's made of dirt, isn't it? TIDE is EDIT backwards.
  • 47A: Earl in the court of Elizabeth I (Essex) - learned a lot about this guy after reading James Shapiro's fascinating 1599: A Year in the Life of Shakespeare this past year.
  • 51A: Music booster (amp) - this is like [Tide washer], in a way. -ER noun misdirects you a bit.
  • 67A: Perrier alternative (Evian) - stop drinking bottled water right now. Really. Come on. I mean, sure, set some aside in case of natural disaster, but otherwise ...
  • 71A: Revue segment (skit) - this one's pretty good.
  • 2D: One of TV's "Two and a Half Men" (Alan) - whatever you say.
  • 8D: End of some company names (Sons) - had SON- and thought "???? ... SONY?"
  • 29D: Indoor game much seen on English TV (darts) - TV? Wow, that's ... sad. How is that anything less than dull?
  • 50D: Rathskeller decorations (steins) - Here is Wikipedia's definition of "Rathskeller" ... hey, my university's mysteriously in this write-up. Weird. The only "Rathskeller" I know of is not on or even near campus, as the write-up implies. It's a downtown bar. If you Google [rathskeller binghamton], you can see, without even clicking on any of the hits, the phrases "impending change in ownership" and "recent stabbing" ... I like when my city is comically depressing, as opposed to just plain old depressing.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 8:49 AM  

While I always say I live in Victoria, BC , I am actually in Saanich, which is a suburb with more people than Victoria proper. However, despite the appealing SAA, I would never expect to see it in a puzzle as most solvers would consider it an obscure 7 letter random city starting with S. Along comes SEDALIA and the bar has been lowered.

SandyB 8:59 AM  

Since its a day of rants, Evian is not an alternative to Perrier - sparkling water and mineral water are very different to some of us!

Unknown 9:17 AM  

I liked the puzzle and think all of the teams are NLers and we get TOBAT. La Boehme and Rent are connected and so is Moulin Rouge. I know the term Bohemians from the original play/story on which the opera was based. I actually know Sedalia form watching Clint Eastwood drive cattle to to SEDALIA in Rawhide. Head 'em up, move 'em out, Rawhide! (cracking whips)

I had tact for tack and bars for LSAT, but it flowed smoothly for me. oh, and count me among those who played pepper as a youth. It was later banned in all the parks we played in in High School and Industrial Leagues.

Parshutr 9:31 AM  

No rant from me today. Two days in a row for filling in completely with zero false starts...unheard of, even for Tuesday & Wednesday.
Count me in as another pepper player; no broken noses, the batter (usually a coach) is supposed to bat the ball on the ground. All seven of my busted schnoz incidents came from different sports/fights.

Ulrich 9:33 AM  

I had exactly the same blank at square 25 in the end and exactly the same misgivings about it as described by Rex. Had also never heard of pepper in the sense implied here. Inspite of all of this, it was easy by my definition--and certainly more likable than Sunday's puzzle: "harmless" indeed.

chefbea 9:36 AM  

I'm early today. I grew up in St.louis so was glad to see Musial and Gibson. Have eaten many times at Musial and Biggies . And of course I knew Sedalia

Anyone notice it's the third day in a row for Skosh - I mean a tiny amount. And the second day in a row for Lego.

Love Two and a half men, but have been watching dancing with the stars instead.

Time to go get a latte and eat some steamers

Anonymous 9:43 AM  

[22A/25D] Rex said: I finished this puzzle last night and had a blank at this crossing. I decided I didn't care what the answer was and went to sleep. Same here.

From The drug Aloes consists of the liquid exuded from the transversely-cut bases of the leaves of various species of Aloes, evaporated to dryness. This site states that the drug Aloes (singular) is a combination of liquids from a plurality of aloes(plural). FWIW.

Re: theme answers ... How does a team name, like The Mets, become singular when placed before another word as a modifier? The team name is The New York Mets (Metropolitans), right? Personally, I would say (hypothetically) "I'm a Mets fan." But others would speak of a "Met fan" (cf. Rex's sidebar), or Met trades, Met games, or Met stats, as if preferring one member of the team over all the others. (But surely, "fan of the Mets" rather than "fan of the Met," which would cause more than the usual confusion in this city.) It's the same in all of the theme answers. Anyone else care about this?

Anonymous 9:48 AM  

Does anyone know what 41A W.C. means? LAV?

Anonymous 9:49 AM  

I was glad to see others had trouble with the ALOES SEDALIA section. I was feeling pretty defeated when I went to bed last night.

I liked CARDINAL NUMBERS showing up soon after ALEPH numbers, which I really wanted to be CARDINAL numbers at the time (even though that obviously didn't fit).

If Rex had not blogged recently about pulling LIAM O'Flaherty from out of nowhere I would have had more trouble in the NE. As it is, I wrote it in without hesitation. Thanks, Rex

Carisa 9:50 AM  

I remember Elias (Howe) from a "Schoolhouse Rock" "episode" that used to air in the mid '70s on ABC Saturday morning TV; the specific "episode" was about the invention of the sewing machine..."Elias, can you help me with my sewing?"

Doc John 9:50 AM  

A pretty easy puzzle overall but I did have some trouble in the center for the S reason Rex mentioned (I did manage to guess correctly somehow, though) plus I had "loo" for LAV. (@ anonymous- W.C. stands for "water closet", a term for toilet.)

Gee, Rex, two commonalities today- I used to have a practice in Visalia and would go there for 10 days at a time then 10 days back in SD, etc. Nice town but it's grown so much you probably wouldn't recognize it now. Second thing- my grandmother was also INEZ.

And what's with this TEX MEX cluing? A taco is Mexican, not Tex-Mex. Man! (Or, if it's not purely Mexican, it's "Ameri-Mex" thanks to Taco Bell!)

@ jim in nyc- I thought about that, too, but let it slide for the puzzle's sake.

REVEAL- a great REM album (no matter what they're saying about it now).

Fave answer- PETER. Because nobody demonstrates that principle better than the one who's leading the country now!

Anonymous 9:52 AM  

W.C. = Water Closet
Lav = Lavatory

Water Closet = Bathroom
Lavatory = Bathroom


Anonymous 9:53 AM  

Man, what a weird sensation to read another xword blog (the Star Tribune blog link Rex provided.) It's like discovering life on another planet, or the Bizzaro-World episode of Seinfeld--there are all these people out there like us, but stranded in a different world and in another space-time continuum, making do with inferior puzzles. Dennis, C.C., Thomas . . . . I'm so, so sorry. . . . How long have you been there? Where are your people? . . . . Rex, do something, dammit! Save these people! Are they not crossworders? Prick them, do they not bleed?

Barbara Bolsen 9:54 AM  

@Anon, it means water closet, lavatory, loo, bathroom, etc.

I also ended with the same blank. Pulled Sedalia from the back of brain.

I thought Cardinal numbers and Red pepper were clever, the others not.

JC66 9:59 AM  

I believe SEDALIA appeared within the past week or so in another xword, maybe the LA Times or WSJ, so it was a gimme for me.

@Anon 9:48 - W.C. = Water Closet, Lav = Lavatory.

Anonymous 9:59 AM  

The last time I went to a Rangers game (Texas, not NY) around 1986, there was a sign behind home plate that said "No Pepper." I enjoyed stumping my (destined-for-Princeton) friend by challenging him to explain it. He couldn't. I could only because my family played a lot of ball. That was in the previous stadium; I don't know if the sign was carried over to the new park.

But Sedalia? Google is my friend.

Anonymous 10:09 AM  

I agree, SEDALIA was a pain, and I only got it after changing the "W.C." at 41-A from loo to LAV. The only town I could think of with similar spelling was Vidalia, as in Vidalia Onion -- a trademark owned by the State of Georgia since 1992: "The Vidalia sweet onion is perhaps the greatest agricultural success story in Georgia's history." If SEDALIA wants recognition enough to be in a NYT X-word, they should come up with a Sedalia Sow or ? (something delicious or decorative or at least commercially recognizable.)

Then there's FERAL, sounds like "ferule", of recent fame here. And LA BOHEME! Other than that, ONE SNOOZES...

@ doc john, re your fave PETER, in principal there's supposed to be some competence above which the person in question has risen, but otherwise I'm with you.


Pythia 10:15 AM  

Nice theme, but must agree with Rex about the central chamber in the grid design. ALOES -- ugh. SEDALIA -- double ugh. Uninteresting obscurity. A nemesis for solvers, on a Wednesday? Hmm. NEMESIS might have worked ....

Good fill otherwise.

Anonymous 10:15 AM  

I can't get as incensed about the SEDALIA/ALOES crossing as Rex and others. I didn't know either of the answers, either, but everything in each answer was gettable with crosses until the S, and I wasn't really tempted by any other ending to ALOE_ except S. Maybe I just have lower expectations of the puzzle and myself generally. If it had turned out to be something other than S, I think I would have been pretty irate, because then the puzzle would have been asking that we know (on a Wednesday, no less) not only an obscure town (assuming __EDALIA would have been some other town) but also an obscure drug. I mean, we've all at least heard of ALOES.

I lived in St. Louis for a year back in 90-91. I worked at Al Baker's restaurant. Chefbea1, ever heard of it? It was in Clayton--I think it's gone now. I got fired because at the end of one shift I couldn't account for one boiled shrimp on the buffet cart. Al Baker's was an old school place where hookers hung out in the lounge and the whole place smelled like sterno and the waiters had to wear tuxes. Everybody was on drugs except me and this guy from Montana named Dexter.

chefbea 10:27 AM  

wade - that is soo funny!! Never heard of Al Bakers. Its probably another restaurant now. I'll be in Clayton this July visiting my Mom. I'll ask my brother if he has heard of it.

PuzzleGirl 10:30 AM  

That S was the last square I filled in. I toyed with placing a V there, but went with my gut and was pleasantly surprised to be right.

@jim in nyc: When I lived in New York, about a hundred years ago, I remember thinking it sounded funny to hear people talk about going to the "Knick game." I've never heard the singular used like that anywhere else and assumed it was a New York thing. I think it sounds cool. That said, I really liked MET EXPECTATIONS. Even though I'm a Yankees fan. (Stop looking at me like that, Rex!)

Joon 10:38 AM  

gosh, am i the only one who liked this puzzle??

i had trouble in the center, too, but only because i put in WAVE for TIDE early on and couldn't get out of it. it made filling in REDPEPPER really tough, because that gave me _PW for [Go (for)]. eventually i realized that had to be OPT and fixed TIDE accordingly. it also made __ALOG into the more sensible EPILOG.

i would have liked to see a bonds reference, too. but hey, now they at least have... zito... bwahahaha. (actually i'm not laughing. that's sad. zito was my favorite player when he was on the A's.) i guess tim lincecum isn't famous enough yet to be the headliner for GIANTSTAR. of course they could have just gone with willie mays.

i'll admit that i only know LIAM o'flaherty because of sunday's puzzle (although as an exercise of "guess an irish name" it's not too tough). but prince IGOR and doña INEZ are standard opera fare, although not quite as standard as LABOHEME. (overall it was a good puzzle for opera fans!) STEAMERS, on the other hand, ... how is that crossword-only knowledge? no 8-letter word comes up enough to know it just from crosswords. and if you've ever lived in new england ... yum, STEAMERS! *wipes off drool*

ELIAS i'll give you--definitely crosswordese. of course, they could have taken the baseball thing a step further and gone with the uber-stat-geeky ELIAS sports bureau instead.

Anonymous 10:39 AM  

The Sat. May 3 Tribune puzzle is an OK puzzle. I noticed that the difficulty varies from Monday to Friday in the same puzzle, which we're not used to with the NYTimes or the NYSun. Perhaps there were a lot of obscure terms together in the lower-right, but it was gettable with no special problem.

Anonymous 10:44 AM  

Joon, I "liked" today's puzzle. I almost always do, and I think it's the same for all of us. We just don't waste our breath saying so. If we didn't like the Times puzzle we wouldn't get all involved with it as we do. I should be at work now! So, bye.

Margaret 10:45 AM  

@Wade- your post about other xworders in another s/t continuum made me guffaw!

Re Baseball and Bob Gibson: My mother (who turned 88 last week -- which I guess means that I'm old enough to be Rex's mother) was a big Cardinals fan. Part of the reason was that Memphis' favorite son Tim McCarver was not only from our town but also from our same parish and parochial school.

But she really became a fan the summer I was in 6th grade and she contracted hepatitis from a lunch at her book club (which is down to 5 members but is still meeting 44 years after it started!) Mom was in bed most of the summer and spent much of her time listening to the Cards games on a little transistor radio. The year was 1967 and the Cards (with Bob Gibson pitching) went on to win the world series that year.

As for the puzzle, I felt like I was in a time warp with more clues than usual (Lego, Liam, Emote) that have been repeated in the last few days.

I did really like Big Jerk = Spasm. And I like the word epilog even if the clue is uninspired.

Unknown 10:59 AM  

@ Wade

I am not sure the Prime Directive allows us to help. However, I did film about 48 different episodes in which we fudged it a bit, so maybe it will work out.

Capt. Kirk
Captain's Epilogue SUpplemental

Rex Parker 11:01 AM  

@jim in nyc,

I'm glad that there's finally someone out there to speak for "all of us." Good for you. Way to step up. And in retrospect, you're absolutely right. That Tribune puzzle is just fine. Tyler and I were completely misguided, and GALIPOT, AZAN, CYCADS, INTI, IRO, LER, NIPA, TIFT, CUBOIDAL and SGD are all totally "gettable" - nay, inspired. You're a genius.


Rex Parker 11:03 AM  

Whoops, I left POMOS off my list of genius words from the Tribune puzzle. How could I?!


Rex Parker 11:11 AM  

Whoops, sorry, one more: CRUZEIRO.

[kisses tips of fingers] Magnifique!


chefbea 11:27 AM  

Margaret - my father was a big cardinal fan. I use to go to all the games with him at Sportsman's park!!! Am I revealing my age?? Never went to Bush stadium and now it has been replaced by a newer version. Its great when we drive to St. louis and see the Arch looming ahead which by the way I watched it being built. Enough st. louis rambling

jae 11:29 AM  

Add me to the ALOES/SEDALIA bandwagon. I finally put the "S" in because it was hard to see what else it could be. I also fell into the LOO trap. I felt this one was just so-so and definitely not as good as yesterday's. I recently did a Quigley with the same theme only with basketball teams. It was a TAD tougher but much more satisfying.

The BEQ was in "Crosswords to Keep Your Brain Young: The 6-Step Age Defying Program" (which is mainly why I'm doing this other than being addicted) by Majid Fotuhi, M.D., Ph. D. It just came out this year and has 120 NYT puzzles most of which seem to be end of the week ones.

Anonymous 11:48 AM  

A few things...

Pepper has been pretty much outlawed in baseball for a long time now. I remember as a kid asking my dad if all the "No Pepper" signs in the outfield of Yankee stadium were there because it would make the outfielders sneeze if it got in their nose. So while I get the intention of the clue, I don't know, for perfect accuracy it should have a "bygone" in there I think. That might make it a bit easier, but it would be more correct.

Rex, while our Rathskellar is obviously the best (I find it ironic that they re-did the absurdly sordid inside, put down a marble floor and a VIP lounge, and yet your shoes still stick to it as you walk amongst scantily clad freshman), it's actually a pretty common name for college bars. I've heard of them at UMass, Tulane, UCSD, etc. So they may not have specifically been talking about ours, but they should have been.

And yeah, this puzzle was no fun.

Anonymous 11:51 AM  

@doc john, completely true the bad cluing of 40D. Tacos are NOT texmex. Unless you're talking about those ridiculous hard-shell ones they sell at taco bell... In which case the type of wrap should've been included.

Anonymous 11:52 AM  

16a: Suffix with Govern. The only thing that came to mind was governATOR. Maybe it's just because I live in California and that phrase has become so common!

miriam b 11:53 AM  

My kind of puzzle. Opera (IGOR, INEZ, LABOHEME); food (TACO, STEAMERS, TEXMEX) and ELIAS Howe.

@Doc John: First of all, I appreciate and agree with your comments on Dubya and the Peter Principle.

Also, IMHO, Doc, genuine Mexican tacos are not served in a crisp shell, but rather in a rolled-up or folded tortilla which is not fried until inflexible as are the Tex-Mex articles.

Steamers - I live in clam country -
south shore of Suffolk County, LI.

I grew up in Bridgeport, CT, the home of Elias Howe. There was (and probably still is) a statue of Howe as well as one of P. T. Barnum in Seaside Park there. High school wits often suggested taking dates to the park to show themn Howe.

There is (or was) an elementary school named after Howe, but it was pretty mossy when I was a kid and is probably gone.

miriam b 11:53 AM  

My kind of puzzle. Opera (IGOR, INEZ, LABOHEME); food (TACO, STEAMERS, TEXMEX) and ELIAS Howe.

@Doc John: First of all, I appreciate and agree with your comments on Dubya and the Peter Principle.

Also, IMHO, Doc, genuine Mexican tacos are not served in a crisp shell, but rather in a rolled-up or folded tortilla which is not fried until inflexible as are the Tex-Mex articles.

Steamers - I live in clam country -
south shore of Suffolk County, LI.

I grew up in Bridgeport, CT, the home of Elias Howe. There was (and probably still is) a statue of Howe as well as one of P. T. Barnum in Seaside Park there. High school wits often suggested taking dates to the park to show themn Howe.

There is (or was) an elementary school named after Howe, but it was pretty mossy when I was a kid and is probably gone.

Anonymous 12:02 PM  

Yeesh, Rex, that was mean. You seemed like a nice guy in Brooklyn.

Don't we all like the New York Times puzzle?

Anonymous 12:05 PM  

This was an especially fun puzzle for me. I liked all the theme clues. Humor seems to be very hard to pull off in a crossword in a way that pleases everyone.

- CrossEyedBear

Doc John 12:06 PM  

Here's a Wikipedia article about Tex-Mex but unfortunately it doesn't specifically accept or refute whether tacos are Tex-Mex.

Bill D 12:06 PM  

Not a great puzzle today, I thought. I had an "M" at the ALOES/SEDALIA junction, reasoning that the drug was a singular and the word ALOES exists as a plural, and Central Missouri city might begin with MED as medial, middle - some connection to Central. When I came here and found the answer was a random "S", which even runs counter to the non-plural across clue, I was miffed.

I also found the entire NW with TACK crossing TACO, ALAI x-ing ALAN, and CARE x-ind CARDinal totally lame.

Rex, maybe CARDINAL NUMBERS is the best of the theme answers because the others are just wrong, as Jim in NYC suggested. The other answers should be REDS PEPPER, GIANTS STAR, and METS EXPECTATION. Musial was A Cardinal, so that first one works, but the others refer to the team, and in each case they should strictly be plural - REDS, GIANTS, METS. With different cluing the MET one could have been saved, but I think the REDs and GIANTs answers required plurals.

Liked TUFT, ROOK, GovernANCE, STEINS, and TO BAT, FIRST, and IDLE which sort of related to the theme. If you've ever eaten a taco in Mexico you know that our hard-shell versions are a poor man's TEX-MEX invention.

miriam b 12:11 PM  

Pusuant to my lasat message: Alas, ELIAS Howe school is no more, as I suspected. Here's an item from the Mayor's Report for 2007:
Replaced Elias Howe with a new state of the art Cesar A. Batalla grade school. This school houses more than 1,000 students, comprised of 144,000 square feet and cost $53.4 million.

Two problems here:
(1) "comprised of" is grammatically incorrect.

(2) Who is/was Cesar A. Batalia? I need lunch, but have to Google him first.

GlobalPittsburgh 12:16 PM  

Anyone who considers themselves a real baseball fan should know the meaning of pepper. Period.
- Tom in Pittsburgh

GlobalPittsburgh 12:17 PM  

Or considers themself....

Larry 12:17 PM  

29 Down: Indoor game much seen on English TV. Well darts works only because billiards wasn't gonna fit.

I travel to the UK on business a lot, thank God for cable. Fiveteen years ago it was very common to sit down to 3 or 4 channels and have choices of Billiards, a doc on agriculture or some sort of East London soap.

However, they do game shows so well. The Weakest Link was terrific because the questions were so hard. It was cool to watch the bitchy red head take off on wrong answers. When it was imported to the US the questions were severely dumbed down. Then Ann the red head lit into a U.S, contestant it was if she was making fun of the retarded. The concept didn't work.

Anonymous 12:26 PM  

See cardinal number theory at:

6 and 45 are indeed finite cardinal numbers. The pun is perfect.

Baseball, being the most statistically scrutinized of sports, makes the mathematical pun an exquisite choice, and I would think, the inspiration for the entire theme.

Anonymous 12:55 PM  

I liked this puzzle too. I thought the themes were good except for GIANTSTAR. For those of us in the Midwest and have to learn Northeast cities, it's nice to be able to have a SEDALIA once in a while. I think I must know it from driving I-70 a couple times a year between KC and STL.

Joe in NEbraska

Anonymous 1:02 PM  

Worked the puzzle last night while "Two and a Half Men" was on TV in syndication in the background.

Confirmed 2D:Alan and then was surprised to hear the Mother use SKOSH in her conversation with her sons - "I did still love him just a skosh" Guess it is a word still used.

Couldn't finish this puzzle unaided. With the N from ONE at 45D I guessed PHONE for AT&T. Never recovered.

fergus 1:16 PM  

Darts and snooker on the television are acquired tastes, both of which I came to enjoy. There's a odd sort of thrill seeing Jocky Wilson waddle up to the ochey, or however you spell the correct term for the dart-throwing line. And to hear the glee in the commentators effusive "one hundred and eighty!"

Bob Gibson -- best right handed pitcher I've ever seen. Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson a bit before my time.

I had more trouble with UTICA than SEDALIA, even though I traveled on trains through both. I might quibble that an EPILOG is more of an addendum than a Closing passage, but it's not an argument I have any intention of winning.

Orange 2:14 PM  

Jim in NYC: It's true that the cited Tribune puzzle didn't have a lot of deadly crossings—but to have that many flat-out obscure crapola entries in a single crossword is a sign of laziness on the part of the constructor and editor (or a yearning for a return to the Maleska days, when wordplay lost out to obscure crapola). The same constructor used [Malay thatch]/NIPA in a January puzzle, too. By comparison, the NYT has used the word three times in 11 years, the Newsday puzzle has used it once since 1997, and the other Cruciverb-indexed puzzles (Sun, Merl Reagle, WSJ, Washington Post, LA Times, CrosSynergy, Boston Globe) have not used it at all.

The woman who blogs about the Tribune puzzle (linked by Rex) got in touch with me after she started her blog. She's been aspiring to finish the daily puzzle without Googling, having just started doing crosswords this winter and not being a native English speaker. But so many of the puzzles are blah, and contain several crappy answers. Of course she needs to Google to complete that puzzle—she's running into plenty of answers I don't know after nearly 30 years of solving and after doing upwards of 6,000 crosswords in the last four years. The fault is not in the solver—the fault is in the puzzle that demands solvers deal with woefully obscure stuff.

Some of the Tribune puzzles are fine, but so many are not. The majority of NYT crosswords are top-notch, but a handful are disappointing. Even the most disappointing or frustrating NYTs, though, tend to be livelier and fairer than the Tribune puzzle often is.

Unknown 2:25 PM  

Ever since I started reading this blog (a rather enjoyable three months I should say) I find myself doing the Times puzzle while thinking, "I wonder what Rex thinks of this cluing...or the difficulty...or the cool fill/theme paring."

That said, I found SIN (5D) diving into CARDINAL I thought it was pretty witty fill (Cardinal Sin). But alas, it did not make the cut :(

Now that that is out of the way... what the heck does N.B. (68A) stand for. I ended putting in ROCK instead of ROOK at 59D and wound up with the N in N.B. as gibberish. Then I look here and see NOTA ???? Equally foreign to me...

Any help...please ;)


Unknown 2:25 PM  

Ever since I started reading this blog (a rather enjoyable three months I should say) I find myself doing the Times puzzle while thinking, "I wonder what Rex thinks of this cluing...or the difficulty...or the cool fill/theme paring."

That said, I found SIN (5D) diving into CARDINAL I thought it was pretty witty fill (Cardinal Sin). But alas, it did not make the cut :(

Now that that is out of the way... what the heck does N.B. (68A) stand for. I ended putting in ROCK instead of ROOK at 59D and wound up with the N in N.B. as gibberish. Then I look here and see NOTA ???? Equally foreign to me...

Any help...please ;)


Unknown 2:25 PM  

ooppps. sorry for the double post

Anonymous 2:40 PM  

Pretty easy puzzle today, just had to google "Cincinnati" (hadn't heard of it).

Unknown 2:49 PM  

@ jim in mo LOL
@ Drew Nota Bene (Note well) Latin for look closer dummy, this is important, I think.

Anonymous 3:12 PM  

Hi Orange. I'm not really sure what's happening on this blog today.

That is, it appears from Rex's comments above that he objects strongly to what I wrote about the May 3 Tribune puzzle.

I'm no apologist for the May 3 Tribune puzzle. If the Times puzzle were like that, I would look elsewhere. I understand and agree with what you have said above.

After Rex suggested we look at that puzzle, I went and solved it and put a few mild criticisms in my 10:39am post on this blog.

I said it's "an OK puzzle," hardly high praise. If I found it on my mother's coffee table, it would be "OK" to spend a few free minutes on it.

After that, I read Rex's comments on the Tribune puzzle blog. I agree with every syllable Rex wrote.

Orange, since I'm not an editor, connoisseur or critic-in-training, I'm sorry you had to take your time supplementing the ... nothing, really ... that I wrote above about the Tribune puzzle. On the other hand, it has helped to allay some of my hurt feelings about Rex's public rant directed at me personally.

Orange 3:29 PM  

Jim in NYC, I suspect we have a difference of opinion on what constitutes "an OK puzzle." I often can't motivate myself to finish a puzzle that includes old-school obscure fill. A guy named Barry Haldiman hosts "Litzmas" every December, sharing Across Lite versions of old NYT puzzles from the '80s or earlier. A zillion people loved those puzzles, and plenty still do like them—but despite my great fondness for crosswords, I draw the line when it comes to the pre-Shortz, pre-Games magazine, pre-Newman style. A matter of personal taste, surely—but I just find it unnecessary to publish (or solve) puzzles that rely on answers like SGD and GALIPOT.

(Blogger C.C. is hoping to find out who's responsible for hiring the TMS puzzle editor, so she can lobby for him to be replaced. There's no reason that puzzle can't be better than it is—and the subscribers to the newspapers that run the puzzle are ill-served by being stuck with a bum puzzle.)

dk 3:36 PM  

Speaking of obscure crapola:

How about wife/mistress of Peter the first of Portugal, INEZ. Inez De Castro: We should all kiss her withered hand - a most awful tale.

Sethg or Mary of Mpls (I think that is your blog name) do you do the Strib puzzles? I do not as the horoscopes are so lame the whole puzzle page cheeses me off.

Oh yeah and the puzzles require a different rhythem & schema than NYT.

"My new verb of the year is MOUSED", meowed TOM.

I was sure Rex would like - UTICA.

On to Thursday.

PuzzleGirl 3:40 PM  

@jim in nyc: I understand that you saying the Tribune puzzle is "an OK puzzle" is not high praise or anything. But to me, it doesn't even rise to that level. I noticed the same thing you did -- that the difficulty level varied from clue to clue. That alone makes it a not OK puzzle for me. Add to it the lame fill and ... well, not my cup of tea I guess. Seems like the people over on that blog liked it. Or at least weren't completely horrified by it (as I was). I guess it's all relative.

dk 3:41 PM  

Rex, Mule days in Bishop. Now that was some kind of fun. Speaking of Visalia.

Anonymous 4:15 PM  

Orange and Puzzlegirl, thanks for your replies.

I do not support or endorse that Tribune puzzle at all. I agree the editor has low standards. I agree with all of you.

I wrote a few words about it at 10:39am in response to Rex's suggestion that we take a look at it. I never had any strong feelings about that puzzle.

Unfortunately, Rex responded as if I ate his cat or something. He even called me a "genius," which is flattering, but not when said sarcastically.

Rex even objected when I said to Joon that I think we all like the New York Times crossword puzzle. I mean, what's the objection to that?

This is becoming very strange.

Joe 4:33 PM  

In response to the May 3rd Tribune puzzle...It makes sense that a Friday or Saturday will be weak and almost certainly computer generated: first of all the Tribune pays $50 for weekday puzzles. When the Times pays $200 and the Sun pays $136. To create a decent Saturday would probably take at least 7 hours. At that rate you'd be seeing Bob Klahn and Patrick Barry greeting you at Walmart. Second, the amount of submissions is probably really low for late week puzzles at the Trib. I've heard that Shortz gets 75 puzzles a week when Newsday gets maybe 9. (Don't hold me to those numbers.) I might assume that the Trib gets a similar amount to the Day. Those that it does get are probably early week puzzles by people just starting out, judging by the themes.
The Trib just has to up the ante if it wants better puzzles, but I wonder if they even care. The Times has to feed the kitty too, and give proper compensation to constructors for their enormous contribution to humanity, not to mention Sulzbergers pocket.
Anyone sense a strike?

SethG 4:43 PM  


I don't do the Strib.

If I did I'd have known CRUZEIRO and TIFT, none of the others. I spent the summer of '92 in Tifton, GA, the county seat of Tift County. You know what's there? Nothing.

I am starting to add in some of the other puzzles, though the NYS and The Onion are the only ones I've been doing consistently.

I think we'll hear from Mary in Mpls in 6 weeks.

Doug 4:56 PM  

For the record, you'd have to be a certain age to know Redpepper. I got it right away because I know what a pepper game is. The Wikipedia definition is lousy. The pitcher tosses overhand softly to the batter who bunts the ball back on the ground. It's a hand-eye coordination exercise for both pitcher and batter. At the old ball parks, especially Yankee Stadium, there used to be stenciled signs behind home plate on the wall that said, "No Pepper Games." I always thought that was cool. Also, Rex, those funny circles outside the foul lines (in the old days) were fungo circles for batting practice. I'm sure you know what a fungo is, don't you?

Bill from NJ 5:08 PM  

Had no problem with the SEDALIA/ALOES crossing, due to my age - I remember Rawhide - and knew ALOES from the play.

@Tom in Pittsburgh-

There are plenty of people who consider themselves no kind of baseball fan and are proud of it.

Anonymous 5:14 PM  

re: Visalia (the board's been a digressive free-for-all today, eh?), I just looked it up and see that it's close to Fresno, a city I visited for the first time just two months ago, when I went out there alone to meet a whole tribe of mythical first cousins I'd never met (the four kids of my dad's sister, and all their descendants, who grew up to be quite sane, lovely people under the care of an unhinged, alcoholic aunt who left Texas pregnant at 15 in about 1958 and traveled through Louisiana, Ohio, Illinois and various other states before winding up in Fresno with four kids fathered by three men . . . you get the picture). Not the time or the place to go into all the reasons why, but it was one of the most moving, life-changing experiences of my adult life. So here's to Visalia and environs.

Orange 5:29 PM  

Joepolicy, I've heard that Newsday mostly doesn't accept puzzles from constructors outside of Stan Newman's current stable, which probably does a lot to reduce the number of submissions. But yeah, $50 ain'r gonna buy Tribune/TMS a good-quality Saturdayish themeless puzzle. I've also heard that the TMS puzzles are of random difficulty throughout the week, rather than having any sort of graduated difficulty pattern; not sure whether Saturday TMS puzzles are where the ugliest unthemed beasts fall, or if they're strewn throughout the week.

You know what's hilarious? From the TMS spec sheet: "The words you pick to fill in the diagram are also important. Don't use offensive words. Avoid obscure abbreviations, archaic words, spelling variations and uncommon not-used-in-English foreign words. All words in a puzzle, especially in The Daily Commuter Puzzle, should come from our spoken language. Puzzles are made more difficult by clever clues, not obscure answer words." Ha.

JC66 5:39 PM  


In NYC, you'd be a Yankee fan.

Bill D 6:26 PM  

I tried the aforementioned Chicago Tribune puzzle just to see what the hubbub was about. I actually found it quite easy except for the SE corner Rex talks about in his comment on that blog. Otherwise there was one tricky crossing and the other questionable stuff fell from rather easy crosses. Nothing to get really worked up over, I thought. However, it is obvious that we doing the NYT puzzle are much better served. If Joepolicy is correct, it is clear that you get what you pay for.

Jim in NYC, I probably would have considered it "an OK puzzle" too. We all have different standards, and I would have assumed the stuff I didn't know was crosswordese I was unfamiliar with until Rex and Tyler griped about the same stuff. Without the blogs, I merely would have shrugged and tried again tomorrow.

We also all have different opinions, and it pays to remember that when one of us makes a comment about a puzzle it is only one person's opinion. Hell, I often shoot my mouth off and nobody agrees with me, but it was my opinion - doesn't mean I was right or wrong. My sedimentology professor (from whom I learned about CYCADS) used to say that five geologists looking at a given formation might come up with six explanations for it, and a seventh might be the truth. I think we who take puzzles seriously enough to discuss them every day might have the same dynamic.

C.C. Burnikel 6:48 PM  

Joepolicy, Orange and Rex,

TMS does not care what we solvers are thinking. I've called, I've emailed, and I've published my "Letters to the Editor" on my blog every week, and my voice has never been really heard or has been intentionally ignored!

Since I started blogging on Jan 21, we've done 16 Alan P. Olschwang puzzles, 11 Philip. J. Anderson, 9 Josiah Breward (alias name of our Editor), 5 Willy A Wiseman (also the alias name of our Editor), 8 Michael T. Williams (our editor's nephew)... unbelievable!

I would say 90% of TMS fellow solvers who visit my blogs are very new to crossword blog. Many of them are not aware of the existence of Orange's or Rex's blog. They've never solved a NYT crossword. Some of them are very good solvers, but they do not pay much attention to the intricacy/fairness of the cluing. Most of us are just struggling novice solvers trying to complete a puzzle unaided.

Yes, we are having lots of fun here, but we are also acutely aware that the quality of our puzzles is intolerable. I just could not believe that Williams can get away with this sloppy editing. Thank you very much for your comments on Rex's post.

Anonymous 7:12 PM  

FYI Re pepper

the batter is bunting it to the fielders, typically three people fielding, picture warming up in tennis using canadian doubles with the single side at net

Anonymous 7:16 PM  

Someone's on her period today. How can you call yourself a baseball fan and NOT have heard of pepper? Oh, right, you're a Red Sox "fan"...from California. Which means that you know who's on the Red Sox and probably the Skankees but nothing else about anything.

Anonymous 7:18 PM  

That Tribune puzzle terrified me. It's like Nam over there. Gory. I don't know why those poor villagers don't run. It really is like they have been lulled into compliance by some sort of mediocrity Kool-Aid. I'm staying well away from that puzzle from now on, for my own safety, and I suggest you all do the same. If you go back, don't blame me when you're wandering around in nothing but a dirty sarong worshipping Ler and muttering about all your lost vials of galipot.

Anonymous 7:58 PM  

I had WAVE in place of TIDE, which gave me --VALIA and I was quite proud of myself to get GEVALIA. It's a town in Missouri and it is famous for those coffee ads in the back of magazines which offer a free ceramic storage jar or a free coffee maker if you try a pound of their coffee.

Needless to say, nothing else worked and I had to come here to find the right answers.

PuzzleGirl 8:15 PM  

@anonymous 7:16: Thanks for the mature post! It really adds a lot to the discussion!

Ulrich 8:23 PM  

Lesson of the day: If you do not know the meaning of "pepper", you're not a baseball fan--gee, I think I have to go and kill myself.

Michael Chibnik 8:59 PM  

I am surprised that this rather ordinary puzzle has led to such animated discussion (even if much of it is about a puzzle I had never heard of). For some reason, I know Sedalia, but I kept staring at aloes and wondering what the s was doing at the end. I think most people who know a lot about baseball have heard of "pepper" but of course one can be a fan without knowing the term.

Orange 9:19 PM  

Green Mantis, if PuzzleGirl refuses to run away with me, I'm definitely taking you.

Joon 9:26 PM  

i don't know that it's the puzzle specifically... people are just getting testy around here.

people like anonymous 7:16 are easy enough to deal with--ignore them and they go away. it's less clear how to handle the rest of the sniping, but i'm firmly in the "just hope it doesn't last" camp.

MarkTrevorSmith 9:27 PM  

Sedalia: It's the site of the annual MO State Fair, and the closest Amtrak station to me in Springfield, MO, one hundred miles away.

All that fussing about plurals/singulars of baseball teams seems to me rather beside the point since, whether the usage is elegant or not, it is firmly established in vernacular usage. Do you really wince when someone brags, "I'm a Cub fan!"

Anonymous 9:32 PM  

Joon, I think those S'trib folks brought their bad vibes over to our edenic garden of love. I take back what I said about feeling sorry for them. Let's leave them there in their cycadic gallipoli. They're probably just a bunch of bygone cager sloganeers anyway.

Marktrevorsmith, the only thing I'll add to the plurals/singles/sports-teams controversies (if that's what they are) is that it is very grating to hear anybody refer to the Maple Leafs. (Granted, picking a maple leaf as your mascot in the first place is probably ill-advised for non-grammatical reasons. Still.)

BMT 9:48 PM  


The Toronto "Maple Leafs" shouldn't be grating when you think about to what it refers: because the Maple Leaf is a national symbol the team name refers to a collection of their national symbols, embodied by each individual player. Relative to the concept of the symbolic nature of the team name, there is no relevance to "leaves" as that would be something entirely different. It makes sense that each of the Toronto players is a "Leaf (i.e. Canadian)" and not merely someone who makes up a pile in need of a rake.

Yeah, "red pepper" made a lot of sense to me because I grew up playing pepper. In fact, there were several ballparks in MLB that had "no pepper games" signs posted on the backstops. I could be mistaken but I believe Yankee stadium was one of them. Go Sox!

kate 10:02 PM  

Elias Howe is always easy for me because I grew up watching The Beatles' "Help." The end credits begin with a crawl dedicating the movie to Elias Howe, inventor of the sewing machine - it's completely absurd in the context of the film, of course, which to my young mind made it hilarious, and it stuck.

Anonymous 10:03 PM  

I couldn't care less about baseball (we just don't play that game down here in God's country), but here are the lyrics to "Pepper," by the Butthole Surfers:

Marky got with Sharon
And Sharon got Sharice
She was sharing Sharon's outlook
On the topic of disease
Mikey had a facial scar
And Bobby was a racist
They were all in love with dyin'
They were doing it in Texas
Tommy played piano
Like a kid out in the rain
Then he lost his leg in Dallas
He was dancing with a train
They were all in love with dyin'
They were drinking from a fountain
That was pouring like an avalanche
Coming down the mountain
I don't mind the sun sometimes
The images it shows
I can taste you on my lips
And smell you in my clothes
Cinnamon and sugary
And softly spoken lies
You never know just how you look
Through other people's eyes
Some will die in hot pursuit
In fiery auto crashes
Some will die in hot pursuit
While sifting through my ashes
Some will fall in love with life
And drink it from a fountain
That is pouring like an avalanche
Coming down the mountain
Another Mikey took a knife
While arguing in traffic
Flipper died a natural death
He caught a nasty virus
Then there was the ever-present
Football player rapist
They were all in love with dyin'
They were doing it in Texas
Polly caught a bullet
But it only hit his leg
Well it should have been a better shot
And got him in the head
They were all in love with dyin'
They were drinking from a fountain
That was pouring like an avalanche
Coming down the mountain

Doc John 10:54 PM  

So THAT'S the name of that song!

Reminds me of that other song with the lyric "All my friends they died, died."

And speaking of the pepper in question, I knew what it was and really had no idea why it was so heinous that I would see it banned in big letters in baseball stadiums. All the information I get from coming to this blog...

mac 11:09 PM  

@Jim in nyc: I agree with you, a Mets fan is about baseball, a Met fan loves the opera.
Don't let the rants bother you, it always sounds so much worse in a blog (funny, "sounds"). I've gotten into this once or twice, and the worst part is that you usually don't get a response to your reparte.
Can we please decide how we spell this "of course"? Is it duh, doh or dah?
How can aloe, which is a balm, be bitter?
@Larry: you are so right about the British Ann: the reception and expectation is just different in England.
I thought comments like anon 7.16 could be removed by Rex.

mac 11:15 PM  

P.S. Why are we spending so much time talking about a non-NYT puzzle?

miriam b 11:28 PM  

@mac: Aloe juice is indeed soothing when applied topically, but the taste is so horrid that once experienced it can never quite be forgotten. Been there, done that.

miriam b 11:28 PM  

@mac: Aloe juice is indeed soothing when applied topically, but the taste is so horrid that once experienced it can never quite be forgotten. Been there, done that.

Anonymous 11:38 PM  

Jeez Rex.

Have you checked your biorhythms, or some other cycle. Your harshness to me is somewhat extreme. Maybe funny to some, though.

For example, "pepper" is well known to older generation baseball players. Kind of like Whist for card players.

You have probably offended half of Missouri with your Sedalia commentary. Anywhere you don't know about isn't necessarily in the middle of nowhere. The "man on the rag" commentary like this was annoying. Even the diss on aloes seemed weird, since it is not a rarity.

So much of your commentary that followed seemed negative because of earlier irritations.

All in all, a D- review. You can't get them all right.

fergus 12:12 AM  

Hey, Rex's occasional cantankerousness is one of the more appealing parts of this blog. When I told a friend about the site and some of the deeply serious issues that get discussed, I added that maybe Rex gins it up a bit sometimes, just for the fun of it. Whether that's true or not, I don't know, nor need to know. He's a consistently lively writer, and that's what trumps everything else.

Bill from NJ 12:32 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 1:16 AM  

@fergus: Agreed. As the master magician and mentalist Max Maven (you try cramming that many m's into 6 words) once said, "There is no need for the audience to like you, as long as they find you interesting."

It happens to be, in Rex's case, that he's both interesting and lovable, but the point stands nonetheless.

Wendy Laubach 1:31 AM  

@doc john -- my reaction exactly! It made me want to go hunt for "Those Were People Who Died, Died" on iTunes immediately. Wade, I wasn't familiar with the song you quoted, but now I'll have to go check that out, too.

Bill from NJ 1:41 AM  

I heard of Liam O'Flaherty but was afraid to say so because I thought I might get my head bitten off.

I saw the The Informer when I was younger but I read his novel The Famine about the Potato Famine in Ireland and I was hooked. I was enamored of All Things Irish in those days - the late 60s - and was reading Joyce when I stumbled on O' Flaherty's short stories.

God, I haven't thought of these things in years.

I thought I would put a positive spin on things at the end of the day.

Good night all.

Anonymous 2:26 AM  

@Orange: Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!

8:56 AM  

I'm pretty new at doing the NYTimes every day (I've been doing the Sunday puzzle for years).

I thoroughly enjoy your blog, it is now part of my routine. I didn't get that S (Aloes, Sedalia) either.

Xanadude 11:15 AM  

Wade, funny you should mention Maple Leafs: Sedalia, Missouri, home of Scot Joplin, where he wrote...the Maple Leaf Rag!

Shelby 11:32 AM  

I look at your blog almost every day and finally decided to out myself. It was the Visalia comment that finally did it- I live in Iowa now but I grew up there and lived in Fresno until last year. And my husband and I are having our first child, a boy, on Friday that we are naming Rex- not because of you, just another coincidence :o) Anyhow, I always enjoy reading your take on the puzzles and just wanted to let you know. Thanks!


Anonymous 5:39 PM  

I know that its unlikely that anyone will read this, but Rex I think you owe jim in nyc an apology. I love your blog, read it every day, and was really surprised to see that level of nastiness directed at a fellow solver- unnecessary and off-putting. You really should make it right(if you have and I missed it, I apologize for wasting anyone's time)

Anonymous 1:54 AM  

Elias Howe also invented the telephone, but was beaten to the U.S. Patent office by another, more famous telephone inventor, Alexander Graham Bell.

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